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Patrick, Esq.
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I emailed a resignation letter to the HR department of my

Customer Question

Hello. I emailed a resignation letter to the HR department of my job last week. I am a dentist for a community health clinic in NJ. I plan to start at another community health center very soon. I also filed a complaint about harassment to the HR department about 2 employees that I work with which is the reason I am leaving the job. I started at this job 2.5 years ago and had a 2 year contract. The contract auto renewed for one year around 6 months ago. Anyway, my question deals with what HR eluded to. My contract says I must give them 75 days notice that I will not renew my contract. My contract does not say how much notice they want to resign. My contract does not say there is a penalty or specifies a penalty for breaking the contract. I plan to leave no matter what because I have a job offer now and now 6 months from now. My question is can they sue me for quitting or breaking the contract?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. My name is ***** ***** I will do everything I can to answer your question.

It sounds like what auto renewed was a "term" contract. That is, a contract in which you promise to remain employed for a set period of time and in which your employer promises to employ you for that same length of time. If this is the case, and if your contract does not contain any provisions addressing early termination or resignation, you would typically be in breach of your term contract if you left prior to the expiration of that term. In other words, if you entered into a one year term contract and you left at six months, you would potentially be liable to your employer for the early resignation.

The damages that arise from this sort of breach usually aren't significant. The employer generally can't claim recruiting costs, since they would be incurring those costs eventually even if you waited until your term contract expired. But if they are left shorthanded and suffer profit losses while scrambling to fill your position, that would be a recoverable form of damage. Likewise, if due to scrambling for a replacement they are forced to hire someone at a higher rate of pay, that too would be a recoverable loss. If there is an attorney fees provision in your contract which entitles your employer to recover their attorney fees, those would also be recoverable in the event they sue. (Note that without a clause specifically entitling a part in this circumstance to attorney fees, the law does not automatically prescribe that right.)

So, you certainly can breach your term contract. You just need to assess the exposure you are creating for yourself if you do so. The best way to minimize that exposure is by providing your employer with as much notice as possible that you intend to leave and when you plan to be leaving. Plaintiffs in breach of contract lawsuits have an obligation to mitigate their damages. That is, they have an obligation to do whatever they can to limit how badly they are harmed as a result of the defendant's breach. By providing your employer with as much notice of your plans to leave as possible, you are limiting what they can claim in damage, since most if not all of that damage would be avoidable.

I hope that you find this information helpful. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes moving forward.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks this was very useful. What is considered adequate or proper notice for a healthcare provider or dentist like myself. My employer has been advertising for this position for a year (no one wants to work here). And there was an ad up before I gave them notice. I am trying to work one month from the resignation letter. The HR director asked for a final work date and then stated she expected me to work another 6 months. Thus I have avoided giving her a date.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your reply. There is no legal definition of proper notice. It is really whatever amount will allow your employer to mitigate their damages. One month notice is very fair and gives your employer ample opportunity to find a replacement. If they can't find someone, perhaps they need to offer a more generous compensation package. That is of course up to them, though.

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.

Was I able to answer your questions? Please let me know if I can provide any further clarification...